Minnesota man accused of falsely selling crops as organic

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. pass off (something) as (something) / pæs ɔf æz / (phrasal v.) – to falsely tell people that something is a particular thing

    The store is passing off fake luxury bags as originals.

  2. treat / trit / (v.) – to put a chemical or other substance on something to preserve it, clean it, protect it, etc.

    These plants were treated with pesticides.

  3. felony / ˈfɛl ə ni / (n.) – a serious crime

    The official was removed from his position after being found guilty of a felony.

  4. defraud / dɪˈfrɔd / (v.) – to cheat a person, organization, etc., to get something valuable like money

    The branch manager defrauded the bank and got $200,000.

  5. associate / əˈsoʊ ʃi ɪt / (n.) – a person with whom someone works or spends time

    The man was arrested after being identified as an associate of drug dealers.


Read the text below.

A Minnesota farmer is accused of making $46 million by passing off chemically treated corn and soybeans as organically grown.

James Clayton Wolf was charged July 7 in federal court with felony wire fraud. Prosecutors say Wolf falsely labeled crops grown on his rural Cottonwood County farm as organic and that he defrauded grain buyers and undermined the nation’s organic labeling system.

Organic crops are grown from non-GMO seeds and without chemicals or fertilizers. They generate higher prices on the market than non-organic crops.

Organic crop certification is controlled by the federal National Organic Program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The grand jury’s indictment says Wolf’s organic farming certification was revoked in 2020. However, according to the document, Wolf continued selling non-GMO grain falsely labeled as organic through an “associate,” the Star Tribune reported.

Wolf’s attorney is Paul Engh.

“Mr. Wolf is a 65-year-old career farmer who has never been in trouble,” said Engh. “He’s led a good life and now seeks his vindication.”

Wolf is scheduled to appear before a magistrate on July 22.

Wire fraud is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines. U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger’s office said the indictment is the result of collaboration between the FBI and the inspector general’s office for the USDA.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Considering his age, do you think Wolf should be imprisoned if he is found guilty? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Why do you think Wolf tried to pass off chemically treated crops as organic? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Do you check whether the product you are buying is organic or GMO? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What other concerns do you have when you are buying food (ex. ingredients, origin)? Discuss.